The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) is using telepresence robots to help train rural and remote nursing students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The school is using a grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Nursing Innovation Grant Program (NIGP) to triple its fleet of robots, as well as purchase new training devices. The robots are essentially a computer tablet on wheels that allow for two-way audio and video communications. When using a telepresence robot, a UTA nursing faculty member or student can move about a clinical space and interact with patients and other caregivers.
“We’re excited to have new robots coming to our college and putting students in the driver’s seat,” Jennifer Roye, assistant dean for simulation and technology and project co-director, said. “At CONHI [UTA’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation], we’ve seen that these robots are a helpful and creative solution to training students safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, one that will also help us increase educational access for our students in remote locations in the long term.”
In addition to the robots, UTA is also purchasing more task trainers, which are portable devices that enable nursing students to practice their skills remotely. This is key while social distancing and other COVID-19 precautions prevent students from attending a traditional skills lab. These trainers enable CONHI to improve its instruction to distance sites that previously had no comparable practice equipment, CONHI said in a statement. CONHI noted they anticipate the new task trainers to help more than 200 students each semester.
“One additional benefit from this grant will be the increased access to training that our rural students will receive with the new skills trainers,” Meagan Rogers, a clinical assistant professor and project co-director, said. “Many students in rural communities lack robust health care training equipment, and we will now have additional tools at our disposal to help them long after the pandemic ends.”